Companies are starting to realize that building a relationship with your customers is better for business than trying to increase the number of single transactions. Relationship marketing is a strategy that builds customer loyalty, develops strong connections with clients, and helps promote repeat business. These strategies will help you retain customers in any competitive environment.
Give Personalized Recognition to Current Customers
Under a transactional marketing approach, effort and energy are focused on bringing in new customer sales. Unfortunately, this is very expensive. Getting a new customer is far more expensive than engaging a current customer for a repeat sale.
You also alienate your current customer base when all incentives are focused on new clients only. Many companies offer huge limited-time incentives to new customers, but they have nothing for loyal clients who have paid them for years. A Dish Network vendor points out that as a new customer, you get discounts, but "at some point these companies need their customers to remain loyal and pay the regular rate."
That's cold comfort for loyal customers who see their friends switching and getting incentives. Instead of taking a transactional marketing approach and seeing constant unprofitable churn, consider offering incentives to current clients such as:
- Reduced rates based on tenure with your company
- Non-monetary loyalty incentives like company swag
- Special benefits, like early sneak-peeks and customer-only sales
- Recognition and thanks for being long-term customers
Technology allows you to track a huge amount of information on a person-by-person level. For the best return on your investment, offer discounts, bonuses, and coupons based on individual activity. You don't have to settle for a generic loyalty program.
Be Involved in the Community
As a company, there are a lot of ways to build relationships with your community. As a brick-and-mortar store, that will mean a geographic area. As an online business, you may choose to be an integral part of a social media platform or online group.
When you are active in the community, prospects will get a chance to see you in a positive light. People will be able to approach you without worrying about a sales pitch. As you build relationships, you'll be able to offer your products and services.
Some fun ways to be involved in your community include:
- Running contests, either online or in person
- Sponsoring charity events
- Having company employees or leaders join groups focused on non-business personal interests, such as fishing or quilting
- Encouraging employees and leadership to volunteer in the community
Being involved in the community doesn't require a lot of company resources. You can build relationships simply by giving your time and showing interest.
Send Handwritten Notes
You can build a thriving business full of loyal customers just by sending personalized handwritten notes. The fact that so many companies find this difficult to do is what makes it stand out. In fact, if you are a small business, this kind of personalization can be a way you stand out from the larger companies in your industry.
There's a saying that "many hands make light work," and if you spread this kind of personal focus across a broad base of employees, it will be much less burdensome. Here are some tips on writing amazing notes to your customers.
- Use good quality ink and easy-to-read handwriting.
- Keep the note brief to save time for both you and your customer.
- Reinforce the customer's purchase decision.
- Encourage a follow-up action such as a referral or additional purchase.
Create Resources for Customers
Companies are in business because they solve a problem for their clients. However, sometimes that problem cannot be fully solved in a single purchase. There are chronic conditions, long-term struggles, and other aspects of life that people need ongoing support with.
As a company, you can provide a space for that support to happen. For example, Shire is a drug manufacturer which produces the popular ADHD drug Vyvanse and created an online site that shares ADHD resources, stories, tips, and more. Shire is focused on partnering with patients, not just selling them a drug. That kind of commitment creates loyalty.
Some ways that you can create a community and provide support for your customers include:
- Having a Facebook group where customers can share experiences and ask questions
- Providing an online forum on your website
- Consistently providing quality research and information to clients
- Partnering with non-profit groups focused on your client population and providing resources together
The resources needed for this kind of support will vary based on the project. Partnering with non-profits or other complementary companies can help lighten the load.
Create a Referral Marketing Program
As you build relationships with customers, ask them to share your products, services, and message with those they know. Approximately 84% of people consider word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family as the most trustworthy source of information.
A referral marketing program will give you a consistent, focused way to ask for referrals and reward customers who provide them. You want to begin by reminding your customers of the value you bring. Just having a value discussion can boost referrals by itself!
Other ideas for a successful program include:
- Asking for a referral during times customers are most likely to feel good about your product or service
- Creating a system so your employees never forget to ask for referrals
- Asking in multiple ways - via mail, email, social media, and more
- Rewarding customers who send referrals with discounts or bonuses
- Making it easy to refer new customers
You will want to invest in specific software to help you request referrals, track them, and reward customers. When you create a consistent referral program, you can grow your business with new customers while you deepen existing relationships. It's a win-win!
Host a Client Event
A client event can be an enormous million-dollar affair or a modest appreciation barbecue. The best part is, you get to decide!
Budweiser was able to use its "Whatever, USA" party town event as marketing for months. The initial party was so successful they hosted another one the next year. Only 1,000 people ultimately got the invitation, but millions of Americans heard about it. Bud Light got incredible exposure, and tens of thousands of people shared about the event on social media.
On the other end of the spectrum, you could hold a small customer appreciation dinner. Focus on your most profitable clients and treat them like kings and queens. They'll tell their friends and family as well, and you can expect increased loyalty along with referrals.
Keys to holding a successful event include:
- Being creative with the event - try a mystery party, rafting trip, or another unusual idea
- Choosing a size and type of event your company can easily host
- Getting help from an event planning company if you need it
- Sending event invitations well in advance
- Remembering to invite a few prospective customers as well
Including non-competing businesses as sponsors can help you spread the cost and organizational tasks so the event isn't too burdensome for your company. Alternatively, you can keep the event small and cozy so it will be manageable.
Involve Customers in Company Decisions
Social media and crowdsourcing platforms have made it easier than ever to invite your customers to shape your brand. From choosing the next color of M&Ms to voting on flavors of potato chips, you can boost customer loyalty with participation.
Participation marketing can vary widely depending on your company's specific products and services. Some ideas to incorporate include:
- Brand-related quizzes and games which are easy to share on social media
- Photo or video contests
- Brand-specific memes
- Contests to create your next marketing piece
- Voting on the next product or service you create
You'll want to research and invest in a good crowdsourcing platform so that you can properly track and reward participants. The good news is, once you choose a platform, you can run these kinds of initiatives again and again.
In the same way that kids are more likely to eat food they had a hand in creating, customers are more likely to buy products that they helped bring about. Use that to your advantage as you build relationships and create in-demand products!
Engage in Social Media Customer Service
Like it or not, customers will go online and air their grievances or share their praises about a company. One key way to build relationships and boost your marketing involves responding to these comments. When you take advantage of social listening tools, you can be aware of what people are saying and craft a response.
There are a multiple benefits to using social media for customer service. It's fast, it meets people where they already spend time, and it gives you a chance to make a public impression. It's not just the customer who's watching; a lot of prospect customers are watching as well.
Companies that ignore support requests on social media see a 15% higher churn rate. Those that respond and engage see customers who spend 20% - 40% more money with the company. Great social media customer service can solidify current relationships while creating new ones.
To have effective social media customer service, consider these tips.
- Choose the social media platforms your customers are most active on.
- Use excellent social listening software so you can be in the right place at the right time.
- React quickly for maximum impact.
- Develop a brand-appropriate tone for social media interaction.
- Know when to take a concern offline for further resolution.
You'll need to invest resources in software that makes listening and responding easy. You don't need your employees to sit and watch social media all day, but you do want to designate a few people to be available when immediate responses are needed.
Go the Extra Mile
A lot of companies say they care about building relationships with customers, but few follow through. When you actually do it, you'll stand out from the pack. Whether your business is small or large, you can implement relationship marketing strategies. So which one are you going to focus on today?